In January 2023, the FDA issued a statement about CBD product regulations: “Given the growing cannabidiol (CBD) products market, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration convened a high-level internal working group to explore potential regulatory pathways for CBD products.” Ever since the 2018 Farm Bill made hemp, and by extension hemp products, legal, there have been zero additional regulations. Hemp products must be Farm Bill compliant, meaning they must contain less than 0.3% THC by volume, but there are no other restrictions. The lack of cannabis regulations created a legal cannabis industry that many compare to the “Wild West.”
The nonexistent regulations resulted in a boom of CBD and alternative cannabinoid products. Products like CBD, Delta 8, and THCa rapidly hit store shelves due to cannabis companies having the freedom to experiment with new products. If regulations existed from day one, it is likely many of these products would be purely theoretical. However, the absence of regulations allowed a small number of disingenuous companies to market misleading, and occasionally dangerous, products. Many people in the cannabis industry agree that “common sense” regulations are necessary to end the “Wild West” era. Nonetheless, there is concern that these new cannabis regulations could cripple a thriving industry.
What does the future hold for cannabis regulations? This article aims to inform people about existing cannabis products, the possible future regulations, and what would be an example of ideal cannabis regulations. When you finish reading, you will know everything there is to know about future cannabis regulations.
Cannabis Regulations, But For Which Products?
The most well-known cannabis product, marijuana, is not regulated by the FDA. However, the several states with legal marijuana create statewide cannabis regulations. California recently passed comprehensive cannabis regulations, which we will discuss later. Although several states passed some regulations for other cannabis products, they are not nearly as detailed.
These other cannabis products fall under the umbrella term “alternative cannabinoids.” Cannabis contains many natural chemical compounds called cannabinoids. The most famous cannabinoid is THC, which is responsible for the euphoric high of marijuana, but there are over 200 cannabinoids in cannabis. Cannabinoids that are not THC are referred to as “alternative cannabinoids,” since they are an alternative to THC. Many of these cannabinoids are well-known, such as CBD and Delta 8.
Alternative cannabinoids have a different legal status than marijuana and are widely available across the United States. These alternative cannabinoid products are commonly derived from hemp, which is federally legal, unlike cannabis. However, when the federal government legalized hemp, they did not instate federal cannabis regulations. Instead, they left the regulations of these products up to the states, which all lack comprehensive regulations.
Although some states have marijuana regulations, no state has comprehensive hemp-derived, alternative cannabinoid regulations. Therefore, when we discuss the lack of cannabis regulations, we mainly refer to regulations for Delta 8, CBD, HHC, THCa, and countless other alternative cannabinoid products.
Future Alternative Cannabinoid Regulations
Undoubtedly, alternative cannabinoid regulations are inevitable. However, the exact regulations are unknown. Furthermore, since every state controls its alternative cannabinoid regulations, each state will have different cannabis regulations. One way to form an educated guess about future alternative cannabinoid regulations is to examine current marijuana regulations.
As we mentioned before, California passed comprehensive marijuana regulations in 2022. These regulations include legal language we can apply to alternative cannabinoids. Here are a few things from California’s law that will likely appear in future alternative cannabinoid regulations.
Firstly, the law requires extensive testing for cannabis products. These labs take a sample of the product and check it for impurities and cannabinoid content. Furthermore, the law requires independent testing to avoid companies constructing phony lab results. In the future, alternative cannabinoid products will require testing, mainly because their cannabinoid content can vary wildly from product to product.
Another facet of the law is additions to cannabinoids, mainly terpenes and flavonoids, which affect the smell and taste of cannabis. Moreover, terpenes and flavonoids can influence the high from marijuana due to the entourage effect. To summarize, the entourage effect means combinations of different terpenes, flavonoids, and cannabinoids result in different highs. California’s law restricts the inclusion of terpenes and flavonoids. Many alternative cannabinoid products include terpenes and flavonoids, and states will likely restrict their use.
Finally, the law addresses licenses for producing and selling cannabis. The law actually streamlines the rigorous and overly complicated licenses California issued when they legalized marijuana. Alternative cannabinoid companies do not need licenses, so alternative cannabinoid regulations will likely introduce these licenses.
The Ideal Cannabis Regulations
We already listed many of the likely future alternative cannabinoid regulations. These regulations will revolve around lab testing, restricting additions to cannabinoids (like terpenes and flavonoids), and issuing licenses. Although some of these regulations are great, some are misguided. Here is what we believe are the ideal cannabis regulations.
Firstly, the federal government should create comprehensive alternative cannabinoid regulations. If states control their own alternative cannabinoid regulations, it will result in 50 different laws. All of these different regulations will hamstring the cannabis industry because companies will need extensive legal teams to navigate all of the laws. Furthermore, the red tape will increase production and marketing costs, resulting in more expensive products. If the federal government regulates cannabis, there will be one law that all companies can obey.
Secondly, independent lab testing is great for the cannabis industry. The few “bad actors” in the industry, who create impure and misleading products, will be exposed. Therefore, people can purchase any alternative cannabinoid product without concern about being ripped off.
Additionally, the regulations should not restrict the use of terpenes and flavonoids. These natural chemicals create unique highs, so producers should incorporate them more into products, not less. Funding for research into terpenes and flavonoids can provide improved cannabis products.
Finally, licenses for businesses should not be overly restrictive. California’s law shows their initial licenses were too strict, and there needs to be a feasible way to enter the industry. If licenses are too restrictive, only large companies will be able to obtain them, eliminating many terrific small cannabis businesses.
Overall, alternative cannabinoid regulations are inevitable. However, that does not mean regulations are a bad thing. Comprehensive cannabis regulations can create safer, better products. Hopefully, future cannabis regulations will help alternative cannabinoid businesses, not hurt them.